Outwriting the pandemic with comedian Joey Clift

Indian Country Today

Cowlitz citizen and award-winning comedian Joey Clift joins us in an encore interview about all things funny and editor of Indian Country Today Mark Trahant talks about where election stands.

Humor is something that has sustained Native people for centuries. So today, as we find our way through this pandemic, humor is once again sustaining us. In an encore interview, we have guest Joey Clift, Cowlitz citizen and award-winning comedian who shares all things funny with his most recent animated short, "Telling People You’re Native American When You’re Not Native Is A Lot Like Telling A Bear You’re A Bear When You’re Not A Bear" and his new Netflix series "Spirit Rangers." The interview originally aired on Oct. 22, 2020.

And editor of Indian Country Today, Mark Trahant has been watching the back and forth between the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration and tells us what that means for intertribal issues.

Some quotes from the show. 

Joey Clift:

"The pandemic has definitely had a big effect on a lot of things in the world and probably the smallest on the list is my writing process. The way that it's changed is prior to this, when I would be working on a show, I would go into a writer's room, sit in an office, usually eat a lot of free snacks from the office kitchen while cracking jokes in a room full of people. And now instead of doing that, I do most of my writing at my apartment. Most of my meetings are on zoom or on some video chat. I would say that the way that my writing process has changed for meetings is now I am hyper aware of how messy my room is at any given time. So I'm just like, Oh, that closet door is open. Oh, nobody should see that. Oh, my bed's messy. So I would say that a big part of my writing process is making sure I don't look like a slob."

"So many of us came up through live comedy spaces where we would do shows together and we would riff on stage and make an audience crack up. It's still there over zoom a little bit but like sometimes we'll kind of step on each other's jokes just cause there's like a latency and a lag. And a lot of standup shows and comedy shows are over video chat now. So it's kind of the same deal. Instead of driving to a comedy theater at midnight on a Tuesday to do a show. I'm just sitting in my dark room and just being like, I really want to go to bed right now, but I have to do this show."

"So the way that this production is different from other Netflix series is that for the first time ever in the history of animated TV in the United States, it's an all Native writers room. And it's just a very very Native forward show in kind of like how I look at all aspects of storytelling for the show. I would say that it's different from a lot of other writing jobs that I've had. Usually when I'm working in rooms in writers rooms, I'm the only Native on staff. So because of that, and because as we know, it's like your average person probably doesn't know as much about Natives as they maybe probably should. Whenever I would pitch Native jokes, storylines, or anything like that, to like a non-Native writer's room I would usually have to start every pitch by establishing first things first. I was born in a hospital, not a cave. My mom is not an eagle. Because it's an all Native writers room, we can just kind of jump into it. Everybody knows what smudging is. Everybody knows what fry bread is. You know, we're all aware of a lot of Native lore and stuff like that. So we can just get to like the heart of the stories and the meat of what makes these stories great. I think that that's something that I really appreciate and cherish about this experience. I've got to shoutout the creator/show runner of Spirit Rangers Karissa Valencia. She's a genius Chumash animation/writer. She's doing great stuff. She put this team together and she's really created a great space for us to make some cool stuff."

Additional resources for this interview:
Telling People You’re Native American When You’re Not Native Is A Lot Like Telling A Bear You’re A Bear When You’re Not A Bear by Joey Clift
Joey Clift Highlights 25 Native American Comedians for Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Find Joey online @joeytainment

Mark Trahant:

"Well the difference is Donald Trump. There's been a hundred years of elections being called by news organizations and particularly the Associated Press, which is very thorough and almost entirely perfect. Not exactly perfect, but pretty dang close. AP, it's interesting because President Trump issued a press release about the Trump campaign about winning Alaska, and they cited the Associated Press calling the race. All of the ballots are not counted in Alaska. It was a straight election call. So it was good enough. So part of it boils down to is election calls are good when you're winning, but not good when it's the state you're behind in. And so it's kind of a question of blaming the messenger rather than actually the message itself. We're down now to really the races that are about to be called. This week in fact, a lot of states are actually going through the certification process. Nevada starts tomorrow and once that occurs, then the next step is to take the delegates to the electoral college in December. And so the time is really running fast on what can be considered a called election or not because soon they'll all be certified and they will be final."

"In fact, in New York times did a survey of all the election officers in every state. So 50 different States and all of them, Republican and Democrat, said not only are things working well, but this was a pretty smooth election. And what made it really remarkable is the turnout was so high that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden had more votes than any candidate in the history of the United States. Donald Trump second obviously and Joe Biden's first. That's a lot of ballots to handle. And for the most part states did it pretty well. And what's really remarkable is you have states like Nevada and Arizona that were so close. And Georgia where they had to handle all those ballots and keep up with a very, very close election. It's interesting because now one of the burdens on the Trump campaign is that they're having to study different state election laws. And Arizona is actually one of the toughest States in the country to get a recount. It has to be within 200 votes and that's not going to happen. It's about, this morning, 12,000. And not only that, but candidates in Arizona can even ask for a recount. It has to be done by the state. Other states are a little more open to recounts. Georgia is now doing a hand recount, when you think about a 6 million balance being hand recounted, that's going to take some time, but that's kind of where they're at. And Nevada also has very strict processes. And again, Nevada will certify this race very closely, or very soon this week as a matter of fact."

"So a bunch of things have to happen all at once, if you want to start your government on January 20th. When a cabinet leader is picked, they have to do what's called a full field FBI report. And that actually includes going back and interviewing people you knew in grade school all the way through your life to look for any potential issues. And then that field report goes to the Senate and they begin deliberations for confirmation hearings. And we won't know the makeup of the Senate until January 5th. All of this is like moving in really remarkable ways, but once that's determined, the Senate will try to have hearings between January 5th and January 20th so that all of the cabinet members can be confirmed as, as soon as possible after noon on January 20th when the President takes office."

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Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider.

Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix. 

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